Thursday, April 26, 2018

Seafaring "Cavemen?" Imagine That!

Cranium model of Homo floresiensis on
display at the Smithsonian.

A long time ago (2005 to be quite specific), Kurt Wise wrote an article wherein he argued for the full humanity of the recently-discovered "Hobbit" fossils in part because it was a seafarer.  Let's unpack what that means.  The famous "Hobbit" fossils were discovered on the island of Flores in Indonesia in a cave called Liang Bua.  The remains had similarities to Homo erectus from the nearby island of Java, and recent attempts to date the fossils by conventional means put their age at 60,000-100,000 years old, with associated stone tools possibly as old as 190,000 years.  The exciting part is the location: Flores is an island that was never attached to the mainland.  Even in the past when sea levels were different, many islands of Indonesia were connected, but Flores remained isolated.  In this map, the light colors represent previously existing land masses when the sea levels were at their lowest.

Regardless of whether you're a creationist or evolutionist, everybody agrees that hominins and humans would have originated on the Asian mainland and must have moved south and east to leave fossils and stone tools on Flores.  Since Flores was always separated from the nearest island to the west by at least 11 miles, Wise concluded that these Hobbits were probably not just washed there in a storm.  He thought they intentionally went to that island in some kind of boat.  Put it together with the remains of stone tools, animal butchering, and controlled use of fire, and you have a creature that behaves awfully similar to a human being.  And I agree.  Homo floresiensis, or the "Hobbit" if you prefer, was a human descendant of Adam and Eve.

A new article from Science now highlights evidence of similar seafaring behavior in Neandertals.  Stone tools recently discovered in the Greek isles and Crete resemble those associated with Neandertals and Homo erectus.  These stone tools could similar in conventional age to the Hobbit remains from Flores, and some might even be much, much older.  Maybe.  The scientists involved are being cautious and skeptical with their conclusions (as they should), but the pattern of stone tools across these islands certainly paints a picture of seafaring "cavemen."  This isn't one of those instances where one site provides the irrefutable "proof" of Neandertal boating, but when you consider the sites together as a whole, it sure does look like ancient humans were intentionally crossing big bodies of water.

It will take a while before everyone is convinced, and in the mean time, those creationists who deny the humanity of Neandertals and Homo erectus will continue to ignore or denigrate this evidence.  But I wouldn't be surprised if "seafaring" becomes a description of Neandertals in anthropology textbooks of 2050.

What does this mean for Flores?  I think they go hand in hand.  Neandertals were probably boating around ancient Europe, and I see no reason to doubt other humans were boating around ancient Indonesia.  The Science article endorses doubt on the dispersion across Indonesia, though, which strikes me as oddly inconsistent.  With ancient Homo sapiens crossing into Australia as well as the Flores fossils, there's at least as much evidence in the south sea for ancient seafaring as there is in the Mediterranean.  Maybe people will start noticing that too.

As a creationist, none of this is particular shocking.  I expect the descendants of Noah, including Neandertals and Hobbits, to have some memory and knowledge of seafaring.  I just wonder what took us so long to make these discoveries?  No one ever thought to look in the "unlikeliest" of places?  Well, maybe we should look again.  Who knows what surprises await us right under our noses?

Wise. 2005. The Flores skeleton and human baraminologyOPBSG 6:1-13.

Sutikna et al. 2016. Revised stratigraphy and chronology for Homo floresiensis at Liang Bua in Indonesia. Nature 532:366-369.

Lawler. 2018. Neandertals, Stone Age people may have voyaged the Mediterranean. Science doi:10.1126/science.aat9795.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Video Lecture: Natural Evil: Why did God make harmful things?

Here's the latest video lecture from Core Academy.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Movie ponderings: The Riot and the Dance

Wow.  Last night, I went to see the new film The Riot and the Dance featuring biologist Gordon Wilson from New St. Andrews College.  Gordon was a professor of mine when I was an undergrad at Liberty.  He taught me to appreciate plants, which was a big deal because at the time I thought plants were boring.  Boy was I wrong.

Today, many years after my botany class, I saw Gordon on the big screen, and I'm struggling to express what I saw.  The movie was quintessential Gordon as he chased snakes and lizards and bugs and even a leech.  The movie was also so much bigger and so much deeper and so much more than I have experienced before.  This is Gordon's thought and ideas magnified and matured and frankly amazing.  This is biblical integration done well.  Finally.

Within Christian academia there's a big concept going around called the integration of faith and learning.  It's supposed to be about how we put our specialized studies together with our Christian faith.  That sounds like a big deal, and it should be.  Unfortunately, after reading far and wide in the "integration" literature, I've found a lot of integration to be what I call (dismissively) "sprinkling Bible verses."  Such efforts look like thoroughly secular summaries of disciplines with a few verses or Christian concepts tossed in at mildly appropriate places.  For example (purely theoretical), someone might explain the details of natural selection among the finches of Galapagos and then quote Matthew 10 where Christ says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father."  See what I mean by "sprinkling Bible verses?"  It's not integration.  It's just shallow.

The Riot and the Dance emphatically avoids sprinkling Bible verses even though it is utterly saturated with biblical thought and reflection.  This is integration done well.  Very, very well.  The movie is a deep and profound meditation on the wonders of God's creation.  It challenges poor, lazy conceptions of our place in creation.  It is thrilling and wonderful and convicting.  The ideas in the movie are born from a lifetime of careful thought and prayer.  Every Christian student of science needs to see this movie.  It's the perfect opening to a course in biology or life science.  (The kids sitting next to me loved it.)

Jesus loves the little fruit bats, all the fruit bats of the world.

Here's an example: In Sri Lanka, Gordon encounters a good-sized colony of fruit bats.  There's great footage of the bats hanging out in a tree, flying around, and just being fruit bats.  As he views this, he talks about how some aspects of creation can creep us out.  We might even hate them.  Lizards, frogs, bats, bugs.  The creepy crawlies.

Then he turns that attitude on its head: Would you ever think about singling out part of the Bible and saying, "I really hate that part of God's Word"?  Sounds crazy doesn't it?  Well, why do we say that about parts of God's world?

Throughout the movie, Gordon teases us with thoughts on snakes, the critters that probably creep out the most Christians.  As he talks about garter snakes, threadsnakes, and sidewinders, he promises he'll talk about what they mean when he gets to the really dangerous ones.  He doesn't disappoint either.  In Sri Lanka, he encounters a hooded cobra, and he reminds us of Isaiah's vision of the coming Kingdom of God: "The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den."  In the Resurrection, he says, when all creation is redeemed and released from its groaning, there will be cobras.  So even today, as we fear their bite and long for Christ's healing, we can look forward to a time when the cobras too will experience that same healing as they find new purpose in the Kingdom of God.

Maranatha, Lord Jesus.  I want to play with a cobra too.

If I had one complaint about the movie, it was the ending, where the entire format shifted to talking head interviews.  I found myself wanting to go back to creation and explore even more.  But that's a minor distraction, and my reaction of longing for God's creation was really the point of the movie, wasn't it?

I'm going to have to watch this again.  And again.  I'll need to take notes too.  This is great stuff.  I hope you got to see it, and if you didn't, I hope you'll catch it on home video.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Video Lecture: The Quest: Faith, Science, and Creation in the 21st Century

The second public lecture from Core Academy of Science.  This is a variant of the talk I gave last summer at the Is Genesis History? conference, and I try to explain my take on the present and future of young-age creationism.

Someday, I need to write this up as a book.  I think I'll call it Experiencing the Courageous, Purpose-Driven Quest of Jabez.  It's sure to be a best seller.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Shenandoah Valley Creation Retreat

Core Academy of Science had a great time hosting our guests at the first Shenandoah Valley Creation Retreat!  We talked at length about the most basic issues of faith and science, and we had a great time discussing nearly every other topic in creationism.  It was a great time of fellowship and encouragement!

Up next for us is our public lecture "Natural Evil" on March 27 at 7 pm at Core Academy (245 California Ave, Dayton, TN).  Then on the weekend of April 15, we have our annual Smoky Mountain Creation Retreat.  This year in the Smokies, we'll be considering the subject of biblical chronology.  We'd love to see you at one of these events!

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.